This summer’s must-have it-bag is a £29.50 cheapie
- I’ve been stopped several times and people ‘what a nice bag’ sounding surprised
- READ MORE: Pump up the volume with a bigger or fancier sleeve
Were I forced to pick my best purchase of summer 2022, I’d probably have to go with my big straw bag.
We’re not talking about a French market basket, although those never go out of style. This is a different league of straw bag, and everyone from Saint Laurent to Marks & Spencer has done at least a couple of straw styles this season.
They know what I discovered — that the right straw bag makes whatever you’re wearing look 70 per cent more interesting, original and summery.
Mine is a hand-loomed natural jute (hessian) tote with a criss-cross stripe in shades of purple black and beige from the brand Maison Bengal (£58, maisonbengal.co.uk).
This one is big — 35cm high, 45cm long — with a striped lining and useful internal zip pockets, and comes in different patterns and colours (I love the one with the dark red central stripe), though you might fancy the club bag with double length handles in shades of blue and orange (£74), the smaller jute bag with brown and yellow vertical stripes (£48) or something less capacious and more like a two-tone bucket bag (£48).
Were I forced to pick my best purchase of summer 2022, I’d probably have to go with my big straw bag. Pictured: Reese Witherspoon
Recently, I’ve been stopped several times wearing mine by people who say ‘what a nice bag’ in a surprised tone. Pictured: Sofia Vergara
I’d recommend sticking with something substantial: a bag you can hook over your shoulder, rather than carry by the handles, that’s got the physical presence to give you that 70 per cent lift.
Recently, I’ve been stopped several times wearing mine by people who say ‘what a nice bag’ in a surprised tone.
I know exactly what they mean: how can a simple straw tote add so much? You’re not wearing anything out of the ordinary but somehow the bag gives you bags of style.
I spotted a woman last week with two straw totes slung over her shoulder — one smaller than the other; one covered in a starry print and one natural with a bit of black detailing — and I felt the same way.
Why is harder to pin down. These bags are special partly because you can use them only for a couple of months a year (straw doesn’t stand up well to rain) and their texture suits summer clothes so much better than leather.
They’re light, they look cool and bohemian without being remotely scruffy, they add texture and colour, and they’re something a bit different from your normal everyday bag.
I honestly couldn’t tell you what else the straw basket woman was wearing, so… they work.
I know exactly what they mean: how can a simple straw tote add so much? You’re not wearing anything out of the ordinary but somehow the bag gives you bags of style. Pictured: Jerry Hall
Ideally, get one that’s lined, and avoid those baskets with broad, firm bases. Big and deep is good; unwieldy and stiff is not. Pictured: Eleanor Tomlinson
A couple of tips. It pays to pay a little bit more, if you can, because the cheaper basket bags tend to lose their shape. Also, be careful how you store it come autumn. Don’t do as I did and squeeze it into a too-small plastic box which means it’s now curled at the edges.
Ideally, get one that’s lined, and avoid those baskets with broad, firm bases. Big and deep is good; unwieldy and stiff is not.
You can find great straw bags everywhere on the High Street. I like Marks & Spencer’s straw cross-body bag with its attractive red, navy and white webbing strap (£29.50, marks andspencer.com), or its straw duffel cross-body bag with a tan leather strap (£35).
At the smarter end of the spectrum, there’s La Redoute’s basket bag with black leather double handles and side pouch (£77, laredoute.co.uk), or Jigsaw’s raffia navy black and neutral striped tote (£96, jigsaw-online.com).
Straw bags: The rules
- Get a large size tote.
- Go for bold stripes on natural backgrounds.
- Look for cotton linings.
- Don’t fold it when you put it away for autumn.
Straw bags are intrinsically casual, but a bag like this you can easily wear with suiting or a black dress for as long as it feels like summer.
What can look very chic is natural straw with a graphic black pattern. The Colombian brand Wati make good-looking casual totes out of cotton and fique (a bit like sackcloth) in natural and black (£40, watistudio.com).
A natural hessian shopper with a bold green and red stripe (£28, wyselondon.com) could be your ‘second’ straw bag, to go with a smarter oversize plain straw tote with black and off-white herringbone strap handles (£37.50, Accessorize for asos.com).
If you’d rather stick with a classic leather-trimmed straw basket of the sort Jane Birkin favoured back in the day, head to & Other Stories (£85, stories.com).
Actually, Birkin was a big fan of a wicker shopping basket, but that’s to be avoided unless you’re under 30 and drifting around the South of France.
Don’t be tempted by slogans or embroidered cherries — they are strictly for the beach, and we’re taking these baskets everywhere, for now.
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